Friday, May 15, 2015

Make your own homemade Hummingbird Feeders-building with recyled and re-purposed bottles, jars and homemade feeding tubes

My grandparents all loved native birds, consequently, their homes, gardens and yards were constantly surrounded by beautiful birds who frequented the many feeders that were strewn about.  It amazed me that they knew all the names of the colorful and distinctly different little feathered visitors who came to dine outside their windows.  My only surviving grandmother still hangs out her feeders and can tell her great grandchildren all about the birds that they see all around her home.  Hummingbirds were a favorite of mine with their wings going a mile a minute as they hovered with their delicate beaks deftly extracting nectar from the feeders.

Now that I am grown I hang out my own feeders and I enjoy building my own.  If you enjoy hummingbirds and enjoy making your own feeders, I hope you will enjoy this and find it helpful. I have a couple different designs that I have built but I will start with a popular design right now that uses bottles from wine, sparkling juice, soda and even mason canning jars with a feeder tube (or two, or three or four) attached.  There are many places that sell pre-made feeder tubes but I made my own using things I had on hand and it was simple and of course much cheaper.  I am going to try and link this blog to a site online where you can also purchase these great recycled feeders if you choose.

1st I drank a bottle of sparkling juice with my kids and husband over a pot roast dinner and saved the bottle.  This particular variety of sparkling juice had a twist on and off cap so I decided to use that to my advantage (but I will also show ways to make feeder tubes that will work with bottles that do not have resealable caps). 2nd I looked around the house and found some extra, flexible,  plastic tubing lying around.  (Truth be told it was some old oxygen tubing that my son required when he was born.  Thank heaven he no longer needs it for its original purpose, but he does love watching birds outside so I thought re-purposing the tubing for a bird feeder was perfect!)   If you have some flexible copper tubing or anything similar it will work fine too.  I cut the tubing into about 6" sections and then dug through my drill bits looking for a bit that was the same diameter as my tubing-or at least fairly close.

3rd Once I found the drill bit I attached it to my power drill and bored a hole through the center of the screw-on cap and inserted the tubing through it.  I've heard some people say the tube should be about 2" inside the bottle and 4" out, but I only put the tube in about an 1" or so inside the bottle.

4th Even though the tube fit snugly into the drilled hole of the cap, I fired up the hot glue gun and put a bead around the tube both on the inside and outside of the cap to seal it up. (For non-resealable caps, I simply used a cheap cork, drilled through it, just as I did the twist-off cap, inserted the tube inside with about an 1" inside the bottle and about 4" outside, then sealed it up with hot glue exactly as i did with the cap.  Keep a steady hand when drilling the cork as it is soft! )

5th I didn't want bees or other insects crawling up into the tube and I wanted the opening of the tube to be small enough to prevent excess leaking.  After some thought, I used some colored electrical tape (hummingbirds are supposed to be drawn to the colors red and yellow) and covered the end of the tube with a small piece,

then secured that piece by wrapping a little electrical tape around the outside of the end of the tube.  With the end of the feeder tube successfully sealed off, I poked a small hole through the tape on the end of the tube with a paperclip and wiggled it around so that it was about the right size for a little hummingbird beak to fit.

6th I needed a hanger!  I had some twine around which would work fine, but i decided to use some stiff wire we had out back that is so miserable to bend that no one ever uses it to fix fences or wire up anything.  I like being able to put things to good use and it seemed stiff enough to do the job well.  It took a while, using pliers, the bottle and my tabletop to start a nice, curving, spiraling wrap that was small enough on one end to carefully cradle the bottleneck and gradually large enough on the other end to hold the rest of the bottle securely and still have enough left over for a nice hanger.  (I used about 30" or so for my large sparkling juice bottle.)

7th I decided to spray paint the old gray wire that i fashioned into a hanger to dress it up a bit.  I had a copper color that would match the cap so i used it and loved it-but this is obviously not a necessary step.  Lastly I wiggled the bottle into its new hanger and project done!   All ready to be filled with nectar, hung up in a nice spot and enjoyed!  (One tip about filling the bottle, try to fill it as full as possible and let all the air bubbles rise to the top before securing a cap or slowly twisting a cork with feeder tubes attached.  This prevents any excess leaking although with the tiny holes on the ends of these tubes, I haven't had many problems with that!  Please do remember though that in high wind areas, all feeders will leak.)
Any bottle with a tight sealing, screw on cap (or cork) can be converted easily, like this mason jar.  The same process is used: drill through, insert tubes, add a hot glue seal, tape the ends, poke tiny holes in the tape on the ends and make your hanger.
I found that in areas where the hummingbirds are not familiar with the single-tube feeders, I had more success adding a colorful plastic flower made of colored electrical tape to the end.   To reduce any excess leaking, I found it was also helpful  to wrap small lengths of pliable, left over copper electrical wires around the tubing to point the ends up.
(NOTE: To avoid any leaking or excess dripping with your feeders, fill them up absolutely as full as you can and let all air bubbles rise to the top.  Slowly screw on the tops or twist in the cork.  Improper filling can make your feeder drain out in a day or less.)
If you would rather purchase these great recycled creations today and make them another day, I am attempting to create a link here.

It can also be fun to give your old feeder some new features.  I accidentally broke the old plastic bottle on this one and simply re-fitted it with this perrier bottle and made a new hanger for it.  The "re-fitting" process required boring a larger hole just the size of the perrier bottle cap, drilling a hole through the bottle cap to allow the the nectar to run into the feeder and hot glueing the outside of the cap into the newly bored hole.  Now the bottle simply screws in or out of its cap in the feeder base and is easy to refill.
I have a few other designs for feeders that I will try to post pictures of below and If enough folks want to see how to make them, I may post the directions in a later blog or simply make an addition to this. one

The Repurposed Home: DIY converting an antique clothes washer into a mudroom sink

If you are like me, you can't help yourself when it comes to antiques.  I love them!  But what happens when they are a bit bigger than your average sit-on-the-shelf-display antique? Such was my dilemma with an antique washing machine. We had said washing machine around and I really wanted to display it in my home somehow. Because it was a complete Maytag clothes washer, the problem was that it would take up a lot of space.  I thought it would make a nice addition to my laundry room/mudroom but I didn't want to waste any space there (my mudroom is one of the most utilized, necessary and appreciated spaces in my home!)  Hmmmm.  I decided that if I was going to make it fit into my home decor then it should be functional as well.  I knew that returning it to its previous function as a clothes washing machine was beyond my expertise and i didn't have the budget to pay for a repairman with that particular skill set so I thought up another use for it.  Since it already had a basin and a drain i decided to convert it into a laundry room/mud room sink-something I have wanted for years and haven't got around to installing.  If you'd like some ideas on how to do the same, here's what I did.

1st I pulled out the central agitator, which in most models pulls right up and out nicely.  Removing this piece makes the sink basin bigger, more accessable, usable and much more convenient fro when my husband or kids plop freshly caught trout in it or wash out their muddy shoes or clothes.

2nd After strategically setting a large bowl under the washer, I poured a pitcher full of water down into the basin to make sure it still drained correctly and didn't have any cracks or leaks. The old thing drained like a champ.

3rd I bought a cheap white faucet with a pullout nozzle that closely matched the enamel on my antique washer.  My original plan was to cut or drill away some metal and mount the faucet right on the antique washer but I decided to preserve the washer in its entirety, without drilling or cutting, and go a different route. 

4th I had some left over 3" plastic conduit pipe and so I bought a .75 cent cap for it and decided to mount my new faucet on the pipe and cap (which I would in turn attach to the antique washer).  I measured the height of the washer and cut the pipe to match.  I measured the size of hole that the faucet would need and dug out an old drill bit with the same diameter.  I drilled through the cap carefully and filed down the rough edges.

5th I knew all my faucet hoses (including one long, weighted one) would not fit, slide and function very well in the tight space of the 3" pipe so I cut out about a third of the pipe, on the back side where it wouldn't show, with my saws all.

6th Because my pipe was gray, i decided to spray paint it and the cheap cap with white appliance paint to match the color of my antique.)

7th After the paint was dry I mounted the faucet onto the cap (following the instructions that came with the faucet).  I then threaded the hoses on the faucet carefully down into the pipe and out the open slot on the back of the pipe.

8th I secured the pipe to the antique washer using 2 very large and very cheap plumbing pipe clamps.

9th Time to do some plumbing!  Attaching the faucet hoses to the sink hook ups was easy-they just screwed right on, hot to hot and cold to cold.  The underside of the old washer was a slightly different story but with the help of my favorite local hardware store lady, it wasn't too tough either (Thanks Karen!).  The drain pipe under the washer was a tiny, short metal pipe that protruded at a funny angle and was 3/4" in diameter.  My p-trap and drain pipe in the wall that I needed to connect the washer to was 1 1/2" black plastic plumbing pipe. Hmmmm.  First, I bought a rubber hose and clamp connector set for a one-size-fits-all dishwasher/garbage disposal unit and connected it to the metal drain pipe.  These wonderful little connectors start at 1/2 " on one side and end at 1" on the other.  I cut sections off the small end of the rubber fitting with a pocket knife until i had a piece that fit nicely over the washer's drain pipe. One side attached!!
10th From there I had to grab an adapter or three to stick into the 1" rubber hose, then connect into a 1 1/2" black pipe. With the funny angle of the drain pipe under the washer, this took a few 90, 45 and 22 1/2 degree elbows of black plumbing pipe, but it did come together!  After glueing and clamping the pieces in place it was time to try it out!
Sink, faucet and drain all work great and we love it in our mudroom!  If you give this a try, I hope you have as much fun with it as I did!  (If my leftover parts and plastic pipe is a bit too "rustic" for you, there are many other options available and if you'd like to discuss them with me, let me know and we'll chat about them.)